Koha Kai and ILT have shared vision

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The Elmwood Gardens Art Deco building, which will be used by Koha Kai graduates.

IN a joint mission to serve Southland, a new collaboration has formed to tackle food insecurity and provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities.

Last week, Koha Kai and ILT announced they would enter a partnership to allow Koha Kai graduates to use the Elmwood Gardens Art Deco building and its commercial kitchen.

Instead of it being used for the Koha Kai Lunches in Schools programme, graduates would now carry out the Government’s free and healthy school lunches pilot programme, which came into action this week.

Koha Kai founder Janice Lee said the site would “become home” for the entire team of staff.

“We’ve now got an 18-month lease. The ILT have been really generous with that.

“In the past we’ve struggled with having space for meetings because there’s so many of us, so this is really great for us.”

While the organisation had other kitchens for cooking, the Elmwood Gardens building would be used for all its food preparation, she said.

About nine Southland schools had signed up for the Government’s free lunches and more were expected to come on board.

With the new package, Koha Kai would have to “think differently” about how its cooking teaching programme would work, she said.

“Our programme might become more compact, we might move further outside of Invercargill or work from a slightly different part of the Elmwood kitchen. It’s just about finding a new value.”

About five graduates would be hired to work at the new location thanks to the strong relationships the organisation had built with the community throughout the years, she said.

“As we move into economic recovery [from Covid-19], the opportunity to partner with and collaborate with other organisations is going to benefit the wider Southland community as a whole.”

ILT marketing and sales manager Angee Shand said she could not speak more highly of Koha Kai.

“We’ve been involved with Janice and the team and their social endeavours for a long time.

“The team is amazing and wonderful… this is going to touch a lot of lives.”

The decision to work together made sense, she said.

“We both have the same mission, to help people in our community.”

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